We are all illegal aliens in the kingdom of God

We are all illegal aliens in the kingdom of God June 28, 2013

[I posted this on Red Letter Christians two years ago but the Senate’s passage yesterday of immigration reform legislation make it applicable today.]
We are all illegal aliens in the kingdom of God granted entry only by the amnesty of Christ’s blood. That is the strange foundational truth of Christianity. There is nothing I can do to get a green card that will prove to God that I deserve his love. There is no line for me to wait in at the embassy. The single citizenship requirement for heaven is to acknowledge that I don’t deserve to be there and accept God’s offer of mercy through Christ. Those who understand that they are illegal before God are able to receive God’s mercy and share it with others. But thinking that I can earn my way into heaven by accepting the right doctrine, praying the right prayer, or living in a way that retroactively proves my regeneration is like trying to get around with a fake ID.

Today’s immigration crisis gives us a helpful metaphor for articulating in evocative terms what Paul is writing about in Romans 3:23-24: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” Additionally, our response to the immigration crisis as Christians is a good litmus test of whether we truly understand our own illegal status before God. Recognizing that the grace we have received is a completely unmerited amnesty should radically alter our ethical perspective. We no longer consider ourselves worthy of judging what other people deserve.

There are legitimate questions to be asked in resolving our immigration crisis, but they can only be addressed once we disqualify the entirely un-Christian question of whether undocumented immigrants “deserve” to be granted legal status. Christians who know that they stand on God’s grace alone have renounced the right to ask a question like that.

If I recognize my utter lack of justification without Christ, then “deserve” is not a word that should exist in my vocabulary. Furthermore, why do I deserve the advantages of American citizenship simply because I was born north of a river in the desert rather than south of it? I don’t. And it is abominable of me to judge someone for breaking a law that, being a US citizen, I cannot possibly break myself.

When we expunge self-righteousness from the immigration debate, we can actually consider the causes of illegal immigration and possible solutions. I’ve worked in various capacities with the undocumented immigrant population for over a decade. I’ve studied the visa system that we have in place in this country. Our problem is that we have a very large employment sector that is not currently covered by any visa category: temporary day labor.

We have H1 visas for white collar workers, H2 visas for seasonal farm workers who stay with the same employer (most have to hop between farms), and TN visas through NAFTA for Mexican and Canadian nationals who work in professional industries that all require college degrees. There is no visa available for roofers, landscapers, carpenters, housecleaners, and a whole slew of other independent contractor jobs that currently employ more than ten million undocumented immigrants in our economy.

If you live in Mexico and don’t have a college degree, the only way to legally migrate to the United States and work, outside of the very small and already full H2 visa pool, is to sweet-talk an American tourist into marrying you. Here is a link to a helpful graphic that illustrates the ins and outs of our broken visa system.

President Bush’s bipartisan immigration reform proposal sought to address this problem by creating a “guest-worker” visa. His proposal was torpedoed by those who thought this would “reward lawbreakers.” It had other problems too, such as denying “guest-workers” the right to organize unions. But if there is no way for blue-collar immigrants to come here legally, then how in the world can we blame them for coming illegally? It would require more government bureaucracy to oversee a temporary worker visa program in which workers are not hitched to a single employer, but I’m not sure this wouldn’t amount to a reallocation of the resources the US government already has in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

If undocumented immigrants were given a means of maintaining their legal status by reporting regularly to an ICE office, then it would separate those who want to be transparent from those who have something to hide. Since crossing the border illegally is currently an expensive investment of $6000 or more, most undocumented immigrants see it as a one-way, one-time trip for them and their families. If immigrant bread-winners could cross the border legally to work for a few months and return home regularly without paying a coyote smuggler, then many immigrant families would opt to keep their residence in Mexico or Central America where the cost of living is so much cheaper.

It kills me that the main thing standing in the way of resolving our immigration crisis with a solution that seems to address the underlying issue is the sanctimonious moralism of the anti-immigrant lobby. I wonder how many people in this lobby are professing Christians who see their adherence to a certain doctrine and lifestyle as the ground from which they can cast stones at other people.

If instead we really accept God’s mercy, then it necessarily makes us humble. Paul says this much in Ephesians 2:7-8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When Christians recognize our illegality before God, then our gratitude for God’s mercy determines how we treat other people. Perhaps people who are used to being called “illegal” are entering the kingdom of heaven before the rest of us.

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  • Ben Guptill

    Don’t you mean “undocumented Christians” rather than illegal aliens in the kingdom of God? Sadly, we are probably not far from the days Christians will have to register in this country (like sex offenders). They will do to the first amendment what they did to the second and say you have to register for a permit to practice your faith.

    As for immigration, I think Obama has nearly solved our immigration problem – soon our economy will be so bad no one will want to come here. But all rhetoric aside, giving 20 million people amnesty is a really bad idea. The people who are here illegally are criminals. Any country who knowingly let’s 20 million criminals – people who have proven they don’t care about the rule of law – immigrate and jump onto our welfare roles (food stamps, obamacare, etc) is just asking for economic calamity.

  • thomas

    The U.S. is a religious state but a secular federated republic. Emotional rambles about the Kingdom are irrelevant to how illegal aliens are dealt with by U.S. law. Illegal aliens are illegal because they are in this country contrary to law. It is that simple. They are criminals. They have no right except to be ejected to the country of their origin, regardless of what that country of origin might prefer.

    The number one issue of immigration is for the U.S. to secure it’s borders w/ Mexico. Illegal aliens have nothing to offer to this nation. They are rightly the responsibility of Mexico. The U.S. taxpayer has no obligation at all to provide them with finances, services, etc. That is the responsibility of their country of origin. Further it damages the interests of Americans whose employment opportunities and wages are diluted by these unnecessary and unneeded illegal aliens.

    If Mexicans want to better themselves, they have every opportunity to do so in their own country. There is no reason to expect the U.S. taxpayer to fund Mexico using the U.S. as a dumpling ground for their excess population.

  • Being in the U.S. ‘illegally’ is not a crime anymore than a traffic offense is a crime. This is a great article that only touches on the problems with our immigration system. Most problems are systemic within Homeland Security and Congress, as they continually pass laws that make the whole process untenable. If you are a Christian and not utterly compassionate then you need to look inward. Also, you do not have a clue to how it all works and what the real problems are.

    • thomas

      Being in the U.S. illegally is a crime. The law has not been repealed. The current administration is only failing to enforce the law it swore to uphold. For that, the current administration deserves to be held liable in court.

      The U.S. does not need and the U.S. taxpayer has no obligation to provide for illegal aliens who can offer nothing at all economically to the U.S. This is not the fault of Homeland Security or Congress. It is the reality of economics. The one and only reason anyone supports allowing illegal aliens in this country is to dilute the labor pool depressing wages and to provide reliable votes for the democrat party. It is not a matter of compassion. It is a matter of economics and politics. That is all.

      • Morgan Guyton

        “The one and only reason anyone supports allowing illegal aliens in this country is to dilute the labor pool depressing wages and to provide reliable votes for the democrat party. It is not a matter of compassion. It is a matter of economics and politics. That is all.” Wow I guess whatever you tell yourself to believe is true. I hope that one day you awaken to the reality outside of your FOX News station.

        • thomas

          FOX? Nope. Mostly NYT and similar media. Some NPR, some Democracy Now, etc. No CNN or MSNBC, etc. Never Salon and Huff-Puff or other similar agenda driven filters

          • Morgan Guyton

            How did you gain your telepathic abilities to discern the motives of people you’ve never met like youth pastors of Hispanic kids who didn’t realize that their “compassion” for the kids they work with was really just a zeal to recruit voters for the Democratic Party? Why do you view everything through a partisan political lens that way? Is it possible that other people could have other motives and agendas for what they do than the ones you have projected onto them so confidently? Or is everything just plain and simple in your universe because that’s how it has to be?

      • I said it is no more a crime than speeding on a highway. We have all done that. That is technically & legally the same level of crime. A fact. So maybe we should follow Jesus’ example… he who is w/o sin may cast the first stone. You are grossly under informed as to the real problems as are most Americans. If you work with the system you know for a fact that there is so much more to it than most people have any idea. Which I do. Most issues have been directly caused by Congress. A fact. Clearly you have a political bias not based on fact. One documented fact is that ‘illegal’ immigrants contribute greatly to our tax basis. Most do not understand that either. If you understood the real problems you would then know that a lot of it is a matter of compassion. From what I garner from your reply you will not understand that.

        • bthomas

          When it comes to the law, what your comparison is not relevant. According to the law, it is a crime. Illegal aliens are criminals under the law aided and abetted by the current administration that selectively enforces the law contrary to that oath given to uphold the COTUS. If you wish the U.S. to follow Christ, then you must win men and women to a personal faith commitment to Christ. To expect a secular nation to follow Christ is illogical.

          The real problems of America are multiple. The causes of those problems are many. The responsibility for those problems are people, just like you and I, who prize our own individual interests above those of the nation. The answers however are not found in a left-wing socialist agenda masquerading as Christianity. For left-wing liberal socialism has not proven historically successful.

          Congress is to be commended for stopping the efforts of a corrupt administration that seeks to advance a partisan socialist agenda that is hostile to the best interests of all Americans. It is irrelevant that illegal aliens contribute to the tax base. At the state and federal level the tremendous costs to the U.S. taxpayer due to crime, incarceration, healthcare, housing, education, etc. is far beyond any supposed contribution they might make. These are the hard facts which appeal to compassion is to thin a smoke screen to obscure.

  • Jeff

    “When we expunge self-righteousness from the immigration debate”

    Exactly. However when you questioned my faith for opposing the immigration bill that is exactly how it came across.

    • Jeff

      I’ll add my view. I will be for amnesty if there is a good process for them to earn citizenship. Since they came illegally it should be more thorough and tough than the legal process. Thus people in the future will want to go through the legal channels instead.

      • Morgan Guyton

        I think the law just needs to be honest. If the farmers are going to send recruiters down to Mexico while the Feds look the other way, then it’s disgusting for them to “discover” that people are here illegally as a political stunt so Obama can get credit for being tough on illegal immigration. My main thing is we can’t look at the question moralistically. That’s where the incompatibility of meritocracy with Christianity comes in. It needs to be a pragmatic question. How much temporary labor does our economy actually need? Thats how many visas should be issued. How can the system be set up so people can work a few months and return to their families down south so that they won’t migrate as a family?

        • bthomas

          The law needs to be enforced… rigorously. Illegal aliens need to be deported without regard to their countries of origin. Employers who hire illegal aliens need to be prosecuted without regard for their supposed excuses for why they choose to hire illegal aliens rather than pay a otherwise supply/demand set market wage to legitimate U.S. citizens.

          Our nation does not need temporary labor. There is no need to issue visas to support temporary labor that our nation does not need. The U.S. taxpayer has no obligation at all to provide temporary employment for foreigners. Rather the immigration laws need to be enforced with rigor. Let employers have to compete for workers in the marketplace of labor. Let them be forced to pay the real cost of employment rather than being subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer. And… let the consumer pay the real price of goods and services rather than expecting a modern day plantation model to provide them the benefit of slave labor.

  • bthomas

    Re: How…why. Experience trumps. Experience with supporters of the left-wing liberal social and political agenda does not argue for confidence that anything will be done for reasons of compassion but rather simple unvarnished political interest. Thus the democrats and their supporters use the faux issue of immigration to argue that the U.S. needed and must accept as citizens illegal aliens and their families. This is for the simple reason that it will advantage them to have an influx of voters whose support will have been bought and paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. This is exactly the same rational by which they seek to try to justify the nationalization of healthcare in the U.S., all on the pretext on that nonexistent compassion, justice, etc., that is only the cloak under which masquerades their left-wing liberal social and political agenda. There is a strong parallel between these people and the corporate raider. For each in their own interests squander all that other people have built, leaving behind the shell of a broken wreak

  • It always saddens me how so many people that call themselves Christians can have such harsh/paranoid/self-righteous critiques. Also, again, being here ‘illegally’ is the same level of ‘crime’ as speeding on a highway. That is a fact. Who has never been guilty of speeding?? Most that are here are hardworking people, paying taxes. Literally millions of $ of tax money are from undocumented workers. That is a fact.

    • Morgan Guyton

      I’ve decided to be grateful that some of the people who comment here exemplify precisely the Pharisaic attitude that I was describing. No straw man in my post. Just look in the comment section.

  • Giveme a Break